The BBC, on New Year’s Day, broadcast a stunning new documentary about legendary punk rock band The Clash, created by music filmmaker Julien Temple from footage he took of the now-historic group 38 years ago, before the world had ever heard of The Clash.
Now, you can watch the entire, 75-minute film, The Clash New Year’s Day ’77, online — right here.
Temple, now 62 and a successful filmmaker who has directed videos for such artists as Janet Jackson, Neil Young and The Rolling Stones, as well as a controversial, prospective biopic about Marvin Gaye, was himself a young, aspiring moviemaker when he met the three principal members of The Clash in 1976.
He soon became friends with band members Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon, and filmed some of their earliest rehearsals and live performances. That astounding footage makes up much of the BBC Clash documentary that can be viewed in the video above.
The centerpiece of the film is a live Clash performance from New Year’s Day, 1977, three months before the release of their landmark debut album, simply titled, The Clash. The New Year’s Day show was performed at The Roxy Club, a cramped and decrepit former discotheque in London’s Covent Garden district that for the brief 100 days of its existence was considered the epicenter of the English musical and cultural revolution known as “punk rock.”
Temple told the BBC he wasn’t sure why the footage, which would certainly be considered of great value not only to fans but to music and cultural historians, had never been unearthed.
“(It was) rotting away in my shed!” Temple said. “I can’t really explain why it’s taken so long to do anything with it. I think this must be the last Punk artifact left.”
The Clash dissolved as a group in 1983, though Strummer and Simonon soldiered on, adding new musicians to a reconstituted version of The Clash, for another three years. Joe Strummer died in 2002 at age 50, of a previously undetected congenital heart defect.
The Clash New Year’s Day ’77 contains what fans will consider priceless footage of Strummer and his bandmates talking amongst themselves and discussing their music, while they were all still in their mid-20s and their ideas were just taking shape.
“At first they weren’t keen on that. I think they thought being filmed wasn’t a cool thing to do and they didn’t want to explain their songs,” Temple recalled. “But it’s interesting to see how Joe, Mick and Paul interacted. In one sense it was sad working with all the material of Joe Strummer because Joe became a great and lasting friend. But it’s fascinating hearing him speak. Behind the street act you see there’s a philosopher and a hugely thoughtful guy.”
In addition to the BBC Clash New Year’s Day ’77 film, Temple had previously made the 2006 biographical documentary about Joe Strummer — whose real name was John Mellor — titled The Future is Unwritten.